In the vast majority of cases, cancer is not the fatal diagnosis it once was, but the key to recovery is early detection, which is still a problem for those cancer types that are more difficult to diagnose at earlier stages. But even here, the world of medicine is constantly making significant progress, and an excellent example of this is a new blood test that is capable of detecting over 20 types of cancer, including the more difficult-to-diagnose varieties like cervical, pancreatic, colorectal and breast cancer, with a 99.4% accuracy.
What Is This Test?
The blood test is based on cutting-edge genetic research that attempts to detect the genetic changes that happen to their DNA when a person is suffering from cancer. More specifically, the test looks for abnormal methylation in the DNA, which is a process when the DNA is altered by compounds known as methyl groups. The presence of these genetic abnormalities can point to different cancers, which is exactly what this new blood screening is trying to pinpoint.
The test was developed by Harvard University scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and it has recently undergone a series of trials suggesting the test is effective at diagnosing many different cancers. Out of the 3,586 blood samples collected from both cancer patients and healthy controls alike, the test identified cancer patients correctly with amazing 99.4% precision.
Furthermore, the scientists checked how well the test approximates the origin of the cancer, and it turns out that the test gets that right as well with 89% precision. But one of the greatest goals of the study was to show that the blood test is capable of detecting 14 high-risk cancers that account for 63% of cancer deaths, such as esophagus, breast, lung, gastric, ovary, pancreatic cancer, and others.
These cancers were detected correctly with 76% accuracy. More specifically, within this high-risk cancer group, the test accurately detected Stage I cancer 32% of the time, stage II - 76%, Stage III - 85%, and Stage IV - 93%. This is a great success, as many of these high mortality cancers are typically found in more advanced and difficult-to-treat stages.
Overall, this one blood test successfully detected ⅓ of patients with stage one cancer and ¾ of those suffering from stage two cancer, so it has an excellent potential of really improving current diagnostic practices and prevent many deaths. The researchers have recently presented the results of this trial in September 2019, at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, and hopefully, this revolutionary technique will soon become a successful diagnostic tool for physicians worldwide.